Turning dry land green
Amhara, Ethiopia: To mark the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on 17 June, UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri was the chief guest to observe ‘volunteering for our planet’ first hand.
In a joint commemoration event with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ethiopian Environment Protection Authority Ms. Pansieri visited the UNV-funded project ‘Involvement of Ethiopian youth in combating desertification’ in Debre-Sina in the Amhara region.
The project, which began as a pilot in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia during 2006 in partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), aims at countering desertification caused by both human activities and by nature. Youth volunteers supervised by UNV volunteers work on land rehabilitation in two target regions, Amhara and Oromia.
“The horticulture component is helping feed people in the region, and the income of the youth group has improved through the sale of horticultural produce and the honey sold from apiculture,” she added.
“Our forefathers toiled the land, our fathers inherited it and nature depleted it,” remarked one volunteer, Aberra Getachew. “We are now restoring it for the next generations.”
The project is also influencing people in neighbouring communities to follow suit and take voluntary action for themselves. “We saw what the neighbouring kebele [village] is doing in the project and we organized ourselves and engaged in the same activities,” said one community member, Fasika Hailu.
“Both the boys and the girls work together and take decisions together,” she continued. “We receive no funding but we want to gain the same as our neighbours. Our aim after building the enclosures, planting trees and growing horticulture is to open our own beauty shop.”
Ms. Pansieri was accompanied on her visit to the youth volunteer desertification project by: the UNEP Representative to the African Union, Economic Commission for Africa, and Ethiopia, Strike Mkandla; Government Environment Protection Authority Eco Systems Department head Ababu Anage; senior representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the youth volunteers and community members.
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